Friday, April 15, 2011

Stories from the Clippings

William Fitch "Pop" Allen, PhD (1875-1951)

I Can't Get No Recognition

I find this statement hard to believe, at least from my standpoint. William Fitch (Pop) Allen gets a lot of recognition from us. And for good reason. At least 6 of our oral history interviewees talked about him, we have blogged about him quite a bit and Robert Stone Dow wrote a fairly substantial biography of Allen in 1951, the year Pop died. His bibliography numbers 56 titles.

Colleagues: Bill Youmans, Harry Sears, [?] Carlson, Pop Allen, Homer Rush and Hance Haney

More than one biography exists that tells of his many accomplishments. But because he wrote and published prolifically and because he was Head of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Oregon Medical School (1916-1946) and because he was beloved and respected by colleagues and students alike, I don't believe what the anonymous author of this week's editorial wrote at the time of Allen's death.

Quote: "Strange how a community like Portland can have an eminent scientist in its midst for 35 years --- an eminent scientist like Dr. William F. Allen, without giving the man any recognition."

When Allen died, it appeared that journalists and editors looked deep into their files and actually could not turn anything up on Allen. In fact they turned up only two articles that mentioned him. The author then says that perhaps, " was not strange at all that Dr. Allen made the news columns so seldom. Despite his notable contributions to science, particularly in brain and spinal cord research, he was about the most modest little man imaginable."

The author continues, "We're sorry we didn't know Dr. Allen. We are inclined to envy his close friends and the thousands of medical students who heard his lectures, shared his vast knowledge and were privileged to call him "Pop". We're sorry too, that there aren't more "Pop" Allens. Gentlemen and scholars are all too few these days."

OK. Now I see what the author was trying to tell us. It seems that in this case, a man was truly not recognized outside of his field until after his death.

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